What is a Personal Directive?

In Nova Scotia, the Personal Directives Act allows an individual to legally create a personal directive. This would be a legal document authorizing an individual to act on a person’s behalf when they no longer have capacity and are therefore unable to make decisions concerning their own personal care, including health care, living arrangements, and support services.

[1] For example, decisions the Personal Directive authorizes may include agreeing to a medical treatment, coordinating home care, or long term care services.

Creating a personal directive does not mean you are giving specific instructions to a person for every possible health care issue. Appointing a person to act on your behalf, when you are not able to, gives them the authority to make decisions consistent with what you would want and in your best interests. The person appointed under a Personal Directive to act on your behalf is commonly referred to as your Health Care Guardian.

What are the benefits of having a Personal Directive?

There are many benefits of creating a Personal Directive:

  • If you have not created a Personal Directive, the law lists a hierarchy of family members a health care professional would reach out to in the event you no longer had capacity to make a decision.[2] However, by appointing a health care guardian in your personal directive, knowing your family and network of friends, you could appoint the person that is best suited for this role. Not everyone is comfortable fulfilling this role, and some individuals may have different backgrounds or dispositions that would make them better suited to assist.
  • It prevents conflict between multiple people, for example your children, wanting to assist and make health care decisions on your behalf. The law only allows you to have one Health Care Guardian[3], for this reason. You are able to assign alternate Health Care Guardians, in case someone is unable or willing to act on your behalf.
  • Health care decisions are very personal, and sharing your intentions in advance with the person you appointed allows a person to make decisions on your behalf with confidence that they are honouring your wishes.

Is a Power of Attorney different from a Personal Directive?

A Power of Attorney is very different from a Personal Directive and are governed by separate statues.  A Power of Attorney document appoints an individual to handle financial duties on a person’s behalf.[4]  This could mean a variety of things such as enabling a person to pay bills, communicating with your bank, and also completing real estate transactions, to name a few.   It is very common for a Power of Attorney and Personal Directive to consult each other (or be the same person) prior to making decisions regarding a person’s wellbeing as usually one’s finances and assets will need to be considered as well.

Ensuring that your Power of Attorney and Personal Directive are in place for when they may be needed is an extremely important step in preparing for your future.

Kennedy Schofield Lawyers discuss Personal Directives in their Estate Planning meetings. Make an appointment with one of our lawyers today by calling the office 902-826-9140.


[1] Personal Directives Act. 2008, c. 8, s 3(1).

[2] Personal Directives Act. 2008, c. 8, s 14

[3] Personal Directives Act. 2008, c. 8, s 3(5).

[4] Powers of Attorney Act. R.S., c. 352, s 2.